Sunday, February 21, 2016

Transatlantic Educator's Dialogue (TED) Series - Week Three

From January to May, the European Union Center invites educators from throughout the world to come together in an online setting and discuss important topics in modern educational practice and politics. As part of this discussion, students from the University of Illinois are invited to follow the discussion and write short posts about related topics on a country of interest. Lindsay Ozburn, a student in the EU Center’s Masters of Arts in European Union Studies program, will be contributing to this series through a multi-week study of Bulgarian politics and government. Her research will provide a thoughtful and helpful case study that will give TED participants a chance to see how their discussion topics are expressed in real life. 

Week Three: Prompt – Please write about your country's educational systems and relationship to EU. Focus in particular on its structure, both within the government and within the actual system (ie: how do they organize their school levels?)  

Bulgaria’s education sector

Across the EU, member states are supported by the Directorate General for Education and Culture, who is responsible for policy and the management of initiatives – most notably, the Erasmus+ program. They are to support member states in developing coherent policies for: schools, vocational education and training, higher education, and adult education (EU Commission). According to the Fulbright Bulgarian American Commission for Education Exchange, the education system in Bulgaria is supported and governed through the Ministry of Education and Science on the member state level. They and the DG for Education and Culture create and implement education policy, working together to achieve EU-wide goals of improving educational standards and completion rates.

School systems in Bulgaria consist of public and private sectors, similar to the US. Public secondary
Table 1 Fulbright Bulgarian American Commission for Education Exchange
schools include: general education, vocational, language schools and foreign schools. Additionally, there are fifty-one higher education institutions in Bulgaria for undergraduate and graduate (Master’s and PhD) degrees. This chart shows a comparison of age-to-grade levels, as well compulsory and basic education levels.

Education in Bulgaria is compulsory – or, required by law – from the ages of 7-16. Basic education (grades 1-8) are divided in two parts: primary school (grades 1-4) and pre-secondary school (grades 5-8). The upper secondary level following the receipt of a Basic Education Completion Certificate is broken down into three types of schools: comprehensive (general) secondary schools, profile-oriented schools (literature, mathematics, humanities, etc.), and vocational-technical schools. Secondary education is a stepping stone a job within a particular trade or to university. In higher education, there are four types of institutions: Higher Education College, University, Specialized Higher Education Institutions (technical schools), and Academy. Higher Ed offers degrees for: “Specialist in…”, First or Bachelor’s, Second or Master’s, and Third or PhD. (See Fulbright site for more info). Schools are accredited by the Ministry of education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria and various other accreditation agencies.

Primary and pre-secondary (basic education level) is free in public schools. Curriculum is unified for all schools, include private. There are no honors or advanced placement courses in the school system; but, students are required to taken advanced courses in the last two years of secondary school. Like education in the U.S., the school year is divided into two terms, starting in the Fall and Spring, ending in Winter and Summer. Students are given grades at the end of each semester, based on a 6.0 scale (equivalent to 4.0 to the American system):

6 (A)= Excellent (91.5-100%)
5 (B) = Very Good (80.5-91.4%)
4 (C)= Good (70.5-80.4%)
3 (D)= Sufficient (59.5-70.4%)
2 (F)= Poor (0-59.4%)

 However, as a matter of policy, schools do not rank or rate their students as a whole like the American system does.

School completion rates, particularly among the Roma, have been low compared to other areas in the EU. In the European Commission’s 2015 Education and Training Monitor on Bulgaria, it is noted that Bulgaria has not yet adopted its School Education Act, meant to address these issues. This act would assist with their higher (in comparison to the EU as a whole) under achievement rates, low job placement post-university, and would “provide a framework for implementing the comprehensive reforms needed in the school system, including modernizing curricula and improving teach training” (European Commission, 2015: 3). While this may be the case, according to statistics in the report, Bulgaria has been improving their numbers more rapidly than the EU as a whole, across the board. As the Europe 2020 goal grows closer, I will be eagerly watching Bulgaria’s progress within the education sector.


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